Bihar Polls: BJP Uses WhatsApp Groups to Gain Edge over RJD, JD(U)

Digital War in Bihar? Here’s what goes on behind the scene of these digital campaigns and social media war rooms.

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"We have more than one lakh WhatsApp groups...We have a group for all the 72,000 booths," said a Bihar BJP leader

Another leader from RJD said, "Youth RJD is collecting 25 lakh WhatsApp numbers."

The claims are quite startling, but this is the reality of campaigns in Bihar ahead of the 2020 Assembly elections.

2020 Bihar Elections: A Digital War!

Bihar is witnessing an election where virtual rallies and social media are winning over door-to-door campaigning amid the COVID pandemic. Political parties are ready for the digital war, with their IT cells and social media war rooms.

Colourful cards, poetry, dialogues, and rhyming slogans can be seen everywhere. You can see digital posters of leaders and touching slow motion videos. But you must know what goes on behind the scene during these campaigns.

The 'Aatmanirbhar' BJP

Let's first talk about the party that claims to be the world's biggest political party. When The Quint spoke to Manan Krishna, head of Bihar BJP IT cell and social media department, we got to know that this time BJP is not in attack mode but is instead trying to promote the work they have done.

There are reportedly more than 1 lakh WhatsApp groups created by the BJP in Bihar. In every WhatsApp group, 256 people can be added. According to Manan there are at least 230-240 people in each group.

Which means, the BJP has reached more than 2 crore people just through WhatsApp.

There are around 72,000 booths in Bihar and 9,700-9,800 shakti kendra. Each shakti kendra has 7-8 booths with an in-charge and assistant in-charge. BJP has also created 45 organisational districts with each having a team of 21 people. It has nearly 20,000 social media volunteers.
one of BJP's election posters.
one of BJP's election posters.
(Photo Courtesy: BJP)

More than 20 thousand party workers are imprinting the party's message on the minds of the people. Not just this, messaging also aims at hitting two birds with one stone. Bihar BJP in-charge Bhupender Yadav has recently given a slogan of – 'BJP hai taiyyar, aatmanirbhar Bihar'.

Lalu Yadav's RJD in the Digital War Room

Lalu Yadav’s party, RJD is also upping its game. The party’s state youth president who monitors social media, Qari Sohaib usually doesn't talk about his party's strategies but tells us that RJD's youth wing will soon reach 25 lakh people in Bihar.

This is just about youth RJD and not RJD. Requesting to not disclose their name, a top leader in RJD says that every topic is researched in detail in their war room and the messages are prepared accordingly.

There are separate teams for

  • Content
  • Research
  • Design
  • Technical Stuff
Apart from this, the Yuva Rashtriya Janata Dal has created social media in-charges in every district. Different WhatsApp groups have been made for coordination between leaders and party workers at panchayat, block and district level.

Qari Sohaib says that we don't have money like the BJP, but we have men. We have trained our party workers.

Not just this, RJD has created verified Twitter pages for 38 districts in Bihar so that besides WhatsApp they can reach voters on Twitter as well.

List of RJD's twitter pages made for 38 distructs.
List of RJD's twitter pages made for 38 distructs.
(Photo Courtesy: RJD)

RJD slogans are now revolving around Tejashwi Yadav rather than Lalu Yadav.

Some of them are – ‘Tej Raftar, Tejashwi Sarkar’ or ‘Badlav ki Chhavi, Tejashwi’
One of RJD's election campaign posters.
One of RJD's election campaign posters.
(Photo Courtesy: RJD)

All this been planned keeping in mind the millennial internet users.

Nitish Kumar Has Digital, High-Tech Facilities

Nitish Kumar's Janata Dal (United) is regularly laying foundation stones for structures through virtual meetings and rallies.

JD(U) leader and Bihar minister Ashok Choudhary is working on party's digital planning. He tells that in order to convey their party's message to the people, they have launched - jdulive.com.

JD(U) is focusing more on high-tech campaigning rather than digital campaigning. At least 150 high-tech campaign raths have been created which have two big LED screens along with sound systems.
One of JD(U)'s election campaign posters.
One of JD(U)'s election campaign posters.
(Photo Courtesy: JD(U))

Congress Says 'Bihar Badlo, Sarkar Badlo...'

Congress is counting the shortcomings of the BJP-JD(U) government in Bihar. Congress has also started relying on digital campaign to reach out to the public.

Congress is going to hold 'Bihar Kranti Virtual Mahasammelan' and rallies will be live on Facebook, YouTube and Twitter.

The Dawn of Virtual Politics

In this game of followers, likes and dislikes, one thing is clear – in this 'Digital war', the battle to win voters is not easy.

No matter how much these political parties show themselves to have a strong hold on social media, the ground reality is that Bihar is far from the new digital India. Even today, issues like Internet speed, lack of smartphone and digital literacy make Bihar feel that it's still a backward state.

We have to wait to see whom Bihar will follow and whom it will dislike.

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